What better to go with a day of love than some good ol’ NXT violence and beat-downery? Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovebirds out there. For everyone else, Happy Sunday or whatever day it is that you’re reading these words. As usual, NXT is giving us a loaded Takeover card, so let’s not waste any more time and get to the get down. Less dew eet!!!
(0:01) Josiah Williams starts the show off with a Valentine-themed rap preview of tonight’s show. I love that guy’s work. It was a nice twist on the usual opening video package that we see a million times.
(0:03) We’re getting things started tonight with the finals of the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart are taking on Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. I’ve already said it, but win or lose, I think Kai and Gonzalez have superb in-ring chemistry, and they need to be in contention for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.
(0:06) Gonzalez and her power game mixed with Blackheart and her penchant to nearly kill herself in matches is going to be quite the combination.
(0:09) The Texas Cloverleaf is one of my all-time favorite submission moves. Whatever version of the move that Shotzi just gave to Dakota was… not one of my all-time favorite submission moves. If you’re going to perform a submission, you should probably think about locking it in.
(0:10) At least Shotzi did a better job with her Single Leg Boston Crab. One bad, one good. We’re at net zero.
(0:12) The mood just changes when Raquel Gonzalez enters the match. She’s on such a roll right now as the biggest, strongest monster on the NXT women’s roster. I say this as a huge Dakota Kai fan, but perhaps she should make sure to stay on the ring apron for as long as possible.
(0:16) Bad luck on a corner kick by Kai, which missed Ember Moon’s face by several inches, but was picked up on camera clear as day. They tried switching away, but didn’t switch in time.
(0:17) It never ceases to amaze me just how bright the women of wrestling are able to make their hair. Whether it’s Shotzi, Dakota, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, or anyone else… just insanely bright colored hair.
(0:20) Another bad production snafu, this time after a Shotzi suicide dive to the outside, where the camera cuts to Ember Moon just having a conversation with Raquel Gonzalez about the next spots of the match. By the way, on that suicide dive, Shotzi almost made it literal by coming within an inch or two of just smashing her face into the commentary table. Remember what I said about Shotzi having a penchant for almost killing herself in matches?
(0:23) The team of Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez pick up the victory. The right team won. They’re doing a great job together, and they deserve to be rewarded for it. That was a really entertaining opener. All four women did their thing. I’ll go with 3.5 stars, but I’ve already seen a few people on social media throw out a 4-star rating for it. Kai and Gonzalez have earned a shot at the Women’s Tag Team Titles by winning the tournament, although the title match doesn’t have a date just yet.
(0:26) Speaking of title matches, it’s time for the North American Title match now, as Johnny Gargano defends against KUSHIDA. These are two of the hottest acts in all of WWE, for two entirely different reasons. It’s time to see if all this build for KUSHIDA has been for something special.
(0:31) During Gargano’s ring entrance, Austin Theory was kidnapped by Dexter Lumis. So many crimes take place at or around the NXT property. It’s like a regular Compton out there.
(0:34) Gargano and KUSHIDA have never had a one-on-one match before tonight. It seems like that is more and more rare as the months go on in wrestling, especially with people who have been on the same roster for almost two years.
(0:37) These two are so damn smooth in the ring. Nothing in particular happened to lead to this insight. I’m just thinking out loud.
(0:42) Not that this should surprise anyone, but KUSHIDA and Gargano are switching back-and-forth between technical wrestling and submission holds, but they’re keeping up a very good pace.
(0:45) We’re in the middle of a good’un, folks.
(0:50) They’re still working a beautiful pace here. Gargano is showing why he’s called Johnny Takeover, having another great performance at a Takeover event, but KUSHIDA is matching him every step of the way.
(0:52) KUSHIDA gets absolutely PLANTED into the middle turnbuckle with a lawn dart throw from Gargano. Ouch.
(0:54) This match is the tits. Go out of your way to watch this one if you’re not watching Takeover live.
(0:57) One Final Beat scores the victory for Gargano, who retains the North American Title in an absolute barnburner. Incredible match. Personally, I thought it was time to pull the trigger on a championship run for KUSHIDA, but I can’t complain after that. Kudos to both men. Let’s go with 4.5 stars and keep it moving. If it took place in front of an arena full of fans, I think I would have no problem giving it a higher rating, just on the energy alone.
(1:01) Time for the finals of the Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, with MSK squaring off against Grizzled Young Veterans. Two different styles. Two different paths. The four men in this match have their work cut out for them following the last match, but this should still be a lot of fun.
(1:07) I have no choice but to think of the Rush Hour movie franchise whenever Lee and Carter team up for MSK.
(1:11) There is nothing pretty about Zack Gibson and James Drake’s in-ring work, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
(1:15) Nice use of “skulduggery” on commentary by Woi Bar-ruh.
(1:17) I’m not sure Wes Lee is 100% human. It wouldn’t be fair for a human being to possess that type of speed and athleticism.
(1:23) Absolutely SICK Doomsday Device from GYV, with James Drake doing a suicide dive to the outside and nailing Lee, who was on Gibson’s shoulders. Really nice variation on the move.
(1:25) MSK are your 2021 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winners! They are now squarely on the map as one of the best tag teams in the business today. What a match. Three-for-three with very well-done matches. I’ll say 4 stars for now, but I might be willing to bump that up on a second viewing. There was a lot going on from bell-to-bell.
(1:28) A vignette for Cameron Grimes airs. As always, when we talk about Cameron Grimes, I must mention that he nearly broke my leg at an indy show a few years back.
(1:31) Next up, Io Shirai defends the NXT Women’s Title against Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez in a Triple Threat Match. I expect nothing less, but let’s see if this show can go four-for-four when it comes to great matches.
(1:33) Good on Mercedes for standing up for herself and being pulled from the Retribution train wreck, by the way. People joke about it a lot, but in her case, going from Raw to NXT truly was a promotion.
(1:39) We’re a couple minutes into the match, but all three women are working a really quick pace. NXT sure knows how to handle their women’s division and make them look good.
(1:44) Io Shirai has been the NXT Women’s Champion for a little more than eight months now, but it feels like her reign has been a lot longer than that. It feels like she should be at around a year at this point. It’s not like she’s been defending it left and right, either. This is only her fifth title defense in those eight months. She has just done such a great job that it seems like she’s been fending off challenger after challenger.
(1:49) Well, Io might reach a year, after all, because she has successfully defended her title tonight. Another very, very good match. I’m giving it 3.75 stars. I don’t know where Io goes from here. Rhea Ripley was the popular pick to end her reign, but that ship sailed. Raquel Gonzalez became the popular pick, but she’s working tags with Dakota Kai now. This match was the next popular pick for Io to drop the title, but she won again. Newly-signed Taya Valkyrie, perhaps?
(1:52) Speaking of newly-signed NXT roster members, Eli Drake goes from Impact to NXT, but is given the name LA Knight. That name is… not good. Knight is charismatic, but he’s still trying WAY too hard to be The Rock in his promos that it makes him come across as someone pretending. I don’t like it.
(1:54) Main event time. Finn Balor defends the NXT World Title against Pete Dunne. This one should be violent. Are we going to go five-for-five tonight?
(1:56) It feels REALLY weird to have an NXT Takeover event without The Undisputed Era. The group was formed at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 3 on August 19th, 2017. At least one member of the group wrestled at the next 16 Takeover shows, with that streak ending tonight.
(2:02) Going off of a point I made earlier in this Running Diary, this is another first-time-ever singles match. I love seeing stuff like that, especially when I’m used to watching Raw and Smackdown run match-ups into the ground.
(2:05) How funny would it be if Edge chose the NXT World Title to go after at WrestleMania? He would have a really good match against either of these men, or whoever happens to be the champion in April, but it would be hilarious if he chose NXT.
(2:07) When WWE fans were first introduced to Pete Dunne four years ago, this is the spot I expected him to be in. He had “future NXT World Champion” written all over him.
(2:07) I don’t know if it’s just because Finn Balor is pasty white, but Pete Dunne is quite the weird shade of orange tonight.
(2:09) Folks, if you see any typos from me while this match is on, forgive me. It’s difficult to type when my fingers hurt from watching Dunne’s psychopathic finger-based offense. I fully expect to see him on the news one day for having mangled skeletons buried in his backyard, each missing multiple fingers and having the other fingers cracked in half. Sick bastard.
(2:16) After a bit of a slow (but not in a bad way) start to this one, things are really starting to pick up now. I’m already beyond confident in saying that this is another NXT Takeover event where every match is worth checking out. What a show.
(2:20) No, but seriously, Pete Dunne is a crazy person. I literally know people who have killed another human being that didn’t enjoy hurting people as much as Dunne does.
(2:24) VERY believable 2.99 count after Dunne hit Balor with The Bitter End. Wow. They got me there. I thought we had a new champion.
(2:26) Balor rips Dunne’s mouthpiece out. In this panorama?!?
(2:27) Balor picks up the win to retain the title. There’s no way he doesn’t have at least one injured finger, though. In a good touch, he isn’t able to grab the title belt from the Referee after the match and just has the title strapped around his waist instead. I’ll say 4.25 stars.
(2:29) After the match, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch run out and attack Balor. They, along with Dunne, are beating Balor down in a three-on-one attack. THE UNDISPUTED ERA IS OUT TO CHASE THE HEELS OFF!!! I guess that, kinda sorta, keeps their streak going.
(2:32) Kyle O’Reilly praises Balor as a real champion, and it almost looks like we’re going to get Balor joining the group… until Adam Cole lays Balor out with a superkick RIGHT TO THE MOUTH. O’Reilly is pissed, and Roderick Strong is trying to calm Cole down. Cole then lays O’Reilly out with another superkick and leaves the ring. Strong takes a while but he reluctantly leaves the ring as he looks at the fallen O’Reilly. Big news to close the show, with the apparent split of The Undisputed Era. Bobby Fish is out of action after surgery, and now, Adam Cole appears to have literally kicked Kyle O’Reilly out of the group.
What a fucking show. That’s a Show Of The Year candidate right there, and will end up as one of the best overall Takeover events ever. What did all of you in ReaderLand think? Hit me up with your thoughts. I’ll be back in my usual Wednesday spot in a few days, but until then, be good to each other.